Will Isetann act on alleged ‘wampipti’ sex trade issue?

October 15, 2019

After covering last week the controversial closure of the Isetann Cinerama Complex on Recto Avenue in Quiapo, I received text messages from some friends and readers that came as a shock to me.

I was told that apart from the many violations found on the operations of Isetann which became the basis for its closure by Mayor Isko Moreno himself, there is yet another set of illegal activities taking place there which is the heaviest of all its violations if –I repeat, if— the information is found to be true, that prostitution involving callboys and gay customers looking for cheap sex take place right within the said mall.

When shut down, Isetann, come to think of it, actually had it coming. It first fell into the radar of the city government shortly after Mayor Kois assumed office, when the office of Maj. Jhun Ibay, the tireless chief of the special mayor’s reaction team (SMART), received information that minors are being allowed to engage in illegal gambling at the said mall’s arcade.
Based on the result of the surveillance made for days by Ibay and his group, it was established that kids indeed get addicted to illegal gambling in the mall’s arcade. A search warrant was thus applied for and it became the basis for the mayor’s surprise visit, where some minors were caught in the act of playing with bets involved at the AW Arcade, a supposed innocen gaming center located inside the mall.  Charges for illegal gambling law violation were filed against the arcade operators while the minors were spared. Said arcade was also recommended for immediate closure.

At that instance,  Mayor Kois already issued a stern warning and a fair advise to all mall operators to practice due diligence in the kind of businesses they allow within their malls or face the music.  That was July 31, 2019.

Come September 13, Maj. Ibay reported the arrest of five cellphone vendors at the fourth floor of Isetann and also at the Tutuban Mall.  Before that,  a male service crew sought police help after he was held up at knifepoint  on September 8, 2019 at around 1:30 a.m. near the corner of Maharlika and Herbosa Streets in Tondo.

Mayor Kois called the attention of both malls and said their owners cannot feign ignorance forever. Once again, he warned, this time, for mall owners and operators to ensure that their merchants are selling nothing but legally-acquired items only.

On October 7, Mayor Kois was prompted to ban the selling of second-hand cellphones, after a father travelled all the way from Pampanga just to report to him that his daughter’s cellphone was snatched and that they were able to trace her stolen cellphone to Isetann. It was among the many that were being sold there, according to Ibay.

This prompted a thorough review of Isetann’s permits and voilah! The mall was found to be operating as a lessor without permits; Cineworld Cinerama, Inc. has a permit for just one theatre when it operates a total of four cinemas; its size was misdeclared as only  1,000 square meters instead of 20,000 square meters;  its declared number of employees was only ten.  These findings were made by permits bureau chief Levi Facundo which was why he recommended that Isetann be closed down. Secretary to the mayor Bernie Ang approved the recommendation and signed the closure order, in behalf of Mayor Kois.

Now comes allegations that its theatres have become venues for ‘quickies’ and fellatio services between gay patrons and straight guys, usually teenaged boys in need of fast bucks. The same information was also received by Ang, Facundo and even by the mayor himself, whose live coverage of the Isetann closure via cellphone yielded comments about unchecked sex solicitation and actual sex activities taking place inside the cinemas for the longest time.

In all such reports and even the text messages I got, the common denominator was the word ‘wampipti,’ referring to the usual rate being charged by callboys for a brief sexual encounter with a gay client.

Isetann’s failure to heed all warnings opened a can of worms for them. Its owners have no one to blame but themselves.


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